If you're after a younger-looking complexion (and aren't we all?!), then skincare probably gets top priority in your beauty routine. Plus, if you've taken Better Skin in 7, you're paying attention to diet, lifestyle and hormonal balance.
But what if you're sabotaging all those efforts with the way you do your makeup?
The details of your makeup application can make a huge difference with how young (or old) or you look.
Here are my favourite makeup tricks to look younger:
1. Brighten Your Inner Corners
Even if you wear no other makeup, I recommend that you always conceal the darkness at the inner corners of your eyes. Most people focus on the circles underneath, but this area is actually the most important and makes the biggest difference. It sounds so simple, but it will instantly brighten your entire face and make you look refreshed and well-rested.
Of course, you'll want to cover the dark circles below also. I suggest drawing an upside-down triangle shape instead of a half-moon, to help push your cheeks forward. If you have significant discolouration, consider using a colour corrector underneath your concealer.
2. Choose Sheer Coverage
You need less foundation than you think! I'd try to avoid medium-to-full coverage formulas if at all possible—they might wipe out flaws, but almost always look too heavy on the skin, rob it of its natural radiance, and make your face appear flat and one-dimensional. Younger skin can sometimes get away with the full-coverage, matte look, but past a certain age (around 30), this type of makeup tends to settle into fine lines and create creases.
Instead, I would go for as sheer of a foundation as you can get away with, in a luminous to dewy finish. It should be in a shade that matches your skin perfectly, of course—but know that sheerer formulas are generally more forgiving. Concentrate your application in the centre of your face, blending it out more sheerly at the edges, where you naturally need less coverage.
Then, you can add opaque concealer only where you need it. I've been doing this for years, before it had the name "pinpoint concealing" (coined by Lisa Eldridge, I think?). Use a tiny brush—I like retractable lip brushes—to apply full-coverage concealer on any marks or blemishes. This way, you're not covering your entire face when you only have a few problem spots!
3. Use Powder Sparingly
When you overdo it with powder, it tends to make your skin look dry—and dry skin always draws attention to lines. So don’t be afraid of a little healthy shine. If you must use powder to mattify your oily areas, then go for a translucent pure silica formula. These are the most weightless and natural-looking on the skin, and can be re-applied without leaving cakey, visible build-up. (I'd avoid talc and mica for that reason!)
Also, forget dusting it all over with a big fluffy brush. I recommend using a domed eyeshadow brush or powder puff to apply it sparingly, to your T-zone only. Like the concealer, you only want to put it where you really need it.
4. Add a Peachy Flush
Blush is amazing for adding youthful colour back to dull, drab skin. But an unflattering blush shade or placement can age you fast. You can never go wrong with a peach for fair to medium skin tones, or coral for medium to dark skin tones. This colour family is universally flattering. Avoid anything too sparkly or shimmery, and always err on the side of subtle. A too-dark or too-bright blush can easily look clownish.
As for texture, cream blushes look the most natural on the skin, but can be a bit tricky to apply; I would definitely suggest buffing with a blush brush instead of your fingers. (Yes, you can totally use brushes with cream blush!) I'm more cautious with powders because of the visible texture issue, but they're usually easier to work with. The goal is to create a faint flush across the fleshy part of your cheeks—don’t go too low, or it could drag your face down.
5. Strategically Highlight
Youthful skin has a natural luminosity, and the quickest way to fake it is by highlighting, a.k.a. strobing. This is one of the most important makeup tricks to have up your sleeve—it WILL deceive people into thinking you have a better (younger, healthier) complexion, just by the way the product picks up the light.
I prefer cream formats and find they look more natural than powder highlighters. Use you fingers to dab it across the top of your cheekbones, down the bridge of your nose, at the inner corners of your eyes and above the Cupid’s bow.
6. Build Up the Brows
We've seen this time and time again on the red carpet: soft, straight, feathery brows look younger than angular, pointy, exaggerated arches. A pro like my girl Mary can help coach you into your ideal shape. Look for someone who uses tweezers only—I never recommend waxing or threading. Remember, it's not so much about whether you have naturally thick or thin brows. It's the way they are shaped and filled that matters.
Not everyone needs to fill in their brows, by the way. Sometimes filling can look too aggressive if you already have a lot of hair, so you might only need a brow wax or mascara for hold. If you have gaps or want to create the illusion of fullness, a tinted wax or fine-tipped pencil are best. (I don't love the "blurred" effect you get from brow powders.) Unless you have very blonde brows, don’t match your hair colour—go a couple shades lighter.
Also, I think everyone should own a tinted brow mascaras. They are ideal for defining and bulking up the individual hairs, especially if you use them in a back and worth "windshield wiper" motion. Don't forget the fans at the inner corners!
7. Focus on the Lashes
Instead of relying on dark eyeshadow or eye liner to define your eyes—which can look hard and harsh as you get older—I think lashes should be the focal point of your makeup look. A long, fluffy fringe opens up the eyes, looks great on everyone and requires zero skills to achieve.
Give your lashes a good curl, and then apply several coats of a lengthening black mascara, taking care to coat each hair from root to tip. My technique is to literally press the brush into the roots, and then I clean up any excess with a Q-tip dipped in micellar water. If you tend to get racoon eyes, you may wish to only apply mascara to the top lashes only—or just switch to a tubular formula to avoid any chance of smudging.
For extra pop, try filling in the upper waterlines with a waterproof pencil. It's such a great little trick to make your lashes look even thicker!
8. Enhance Your Lip Colour
Dark, matte colours can make your lips look thinner (read: older), while nudes often wash people out. I’d go with soft berry shades—think “your lips, only better.” I think it looks the most modern when you use a fingertip to apply the colour, so the edges are soft. If you prefer a glossy finish, or need more hydration, consider a rosy tinted lip balm.
As for lip liner, definitely use a clear one if you’re prone to bleeding. Overdrawing the lip line—just a little!—can help give the appearance of plumper, younger lips. I've got tips on that here.
9. Draw Faux Freckles
This is an advanced tip, and it may sound a little out there, but if you’ve got an extra five minutes... try drawing on a few faux freckles! I don't know why, but it just makes you look younger and cuter—and is another trick to give your skin a more natural look. Makeup artists do it all the time on celebrities, so they just appear to have perfect, foundation-free complexions.
You want to scatter them in a random pattern across your nose and cheeks, after you apply foundation. I use a tiny liner brush to dot on a waterproof cream colour, softening with a fingertip so it looks totally natural.
As you get older, less is obviously more—but that doesn't mean a bare face, either. I'm reminded of one of my favourite beauty quotes, courtesy of Calvin Klein: "The best thing is to look natural, but it takes makeup to look natural."
It does indeed! The primary goal should be beautiful, luminous skin, which can take some finessing—I'd spend the majority of your makeup application minutes there. You don't want to just slap on a thick foundation that covers everything up. Take a cue from the best makeup artists, who take their time to carefully blend, buff and highlight, camouflaging only what needs to be covered.
Once the skin in place, you really don't need to work so hard at everything else. Full lashes, soft brows, flushed cheeks and just-bitten lips work on literally everyone, no matter what the occasion.
But seriously, do try the freckle thing. It's a bit addictive!